*Updated to include the breaking news of Abby Johnson’s joining Live Action’s Team* February 16, 2011, 154pm*
The Pro-Life blogosphere has erupted over the past week with the release of Live Action’s videos showing Planned Parenthood “aiding and abetting” sex traffickers. Pro-Life news agencies have covered the stories, relentlessly reporting the videos, their transcripts, and Planned Parenthood’s various frenzied reactions. All the hubbub has got me thinking. I’ve been puzzling over the release of the videos, the tactics used to make them, and the reactions of both Planned Parenthood and the Pro-Life Movement as a whole.
Planned Parenthood has taken it on the chin as of late. First it was the release of Abby Johnson’s bombshell book “Unplanned.” I read it in two days – staying up way too late and devouring every page. If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to put it on your “must read list.” – whether you are pro-life, pro-choice, or ambivalent, it is an insightful, thoughtful, and compelling read – with an honest look at an organization that has been both glorified and demonized.
Next Live Action Media, founded by Ms. Lila Rose, a twenty-something pro-life advocate, began releasing videos of undercover operatives seeking advice and help from Planned Parenthood for underage “sex workers.” Planned Parenthood has yet to give a consistent answer to why its employees in seven Planned Parenthood clinics have, of late, given advice to people they believed to be sex traffickers on how to get care for their underage “workers,” without properly and immediately notifying authorities. In fact in most cases Planned Parenthood seemed more upset about being “stung” by Live Action and trying to discredit the video footage than they were about the fact that their employees were willing to assist and stand silently by when confronted with the illegal sex trafficking of minors. Now Planned Parenthood finds itself embroiled in a scandal that is threatening to pull its Government Funding out from under them. Is it any wonder that they are lashing out somewhat irrationally?
But where does this all leave us as a Pro-Life people? What does the Movement stand to gain from the videos released, and the story told both by Live Action and Abby Johnson? Moreover, do the actions of Lila and her intrepid undercover camera crew deserve scrutiny for carrying out what some are calling a “deception?” I think these questions deserve to be given a good hard look. For my part, I offer my own thoughts and insights as to where we go from here, some of the dangers we must be wary of, and the morality of Live Action’s “Sting” Operations.
I have been doing a lot of reading on this topic – there seems to be no shortage of opinion on Live Action’s latest project. What surprised me though, were the number of pro-life people who have begun to decry Live Action as being deceptive and immoral. Some have gone so far as to say that the actions of Lila and her gang are “from the father of lies” (ie: the devil.). In more than one place I’ve seen heated debate about whether or not Live Action’s tactics were justifiable, and whether or not the “ends justify the means.” This is dangerous territory. Already I am seeing the discord that Abby Johnson warned about in her book that too often rips apart and weakens the fabric of the Pro-Life Movement. Instead of talking about the real issue at hand – the fact that Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the US, and has blood on its hands from the deaths of millions of innocent babies, the fact that women’s lives have been altered forever as they struggle with the pain and grief of having had an abortion, the fact that while providing for the premeditated manslaughter of innocent pre-born humans, Planned Parenthood showed itself to be a willing accessory to illegal sex trafficking…THESE are the pressing issues! Instead, well-meaning, but distracted members of the Pro-Life Movement have turned the discussion to “was Lila acting within her moral boundaries?” “was Live Action stooping to the level of Planned Parenthood?” “can we really use what these videos have shown because of how they were obtained in the first place?” Do you see what is happening? Rifts are popping up as pro-lifers get more mad at each other rather than at Planned Parenthood! Now, this type of divisiveness serves only one purpose, and it’s not one that you should want to serve. Divide and conquer is the oldest battle plan in the book – it was first used in the Garden of Eden, and that slippery serpent has been using it effectively ever since.
So lets all get on the same page here. It is not a bad thing to scrutinize and question. We must be vigilant and alert – this is war after all. Not a war with armies and guns, but a war nonetheless – a war, literally, between life and death, good and evil. So its good to be on our guard, to make sure that our actions as a Pro-Life people reflect our morality and serve to bring about a revelation of Truth. What is not good is judgement. What is not good is calumny. What is not good is presumption. In the case of reactions to Live Action’s videos I am seeing more than I am comfortable with of those things in the responses of some in the Pro-Life cause.
Let us look at the facts, and then let us look at what the Catholic Church has to say about “deception.”
Even before Live Action released its latest videos it has been common knowledge within the Pro-Life movement (and common denial in the Pro-choice community) that Planned Parenthood had a tendency to act in ways that protected its own interests, and increased it own bottom line, even above helping the women they purported to serve. In fact according to Jill Stanek, a nurse, and Pro-Life stalwart who operates a successful pro-life blog, Planned Parenthood is seeking to put on a “Sham trial” to silence Mr. Phill Kline. “Phill Kline is the first US prosecutor to ever bring criminal charges against a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. PP not only wants to silence Kline, it wants to make an example of him so other prosecutors around the country will back away. Really it’s not surprising.” At its core the organization is corrupted simply because they were founded with evil intentions – namely with eugenics, racism, and death in mind. Now, I don’t want to hijack this post with talking about Margaret Sanger and her agenda. I’ve covered that before in earlier posts and invite you to take a look if you care to. (The “CONdom” of Contraception, Birth Control, Breast Cancer, and the Exploitation of Women). You can also find a very compelling and interesting article about that here blackgenocide.org . What I am saying is, how can you expect an organization that sustains itself by killing innocent children to be anything but corrupt? Really, how can we be truly surprised that they were willing to assist Sex Traffickers? They are willing to commit murder, and to coerce and counsel women into killing their own children! When you objectify and trivialize one segment of the population (the pre-born) its not that far of a leap to objectifying and trivializing other segments of the population as well (sex workers, trafficked children and adolescents, rape victims…).
In her book, Unplanned, Abby Johnson comments on how she noticed that there was a disparity between what she thought her role was as a Planned Parenthood employee (helping women) and what she was being told to do as a Planned Parenthood Employee (raise the abortion quotas). Her journey to understanding the sad, but very real Truth about Planned Parenthood should be a very real wake up call to everyone who thinks that the organization is woman’s best friend. In fact, on February 16th Abby Johnson and Live Action announced that Mrs. Johnson will be joining Live Action as a Chief Strategist. With her inside knowledge of Planned Parenthood, she all but confirmed what the videos Live Action filmed have shown. She had this to say,
“I can tell you from experience that Planned Parenthood often turns a blind eye to sexual abuse and trafficking – what you see in Live Action’s videos is not a rare occurrence. [emphasis added] But ignorance is no defense, especially when it has turned their clinics into a safe haven for those who sexually exploit women and girls. This is not a training problem so much as it is an ideology problem. I am humbled and eager to begin this partnership with Live Action so that together we can expose the serious harm Planned Parenthood poses to the most vulnerable among us.”
Knowing this, hearing Mrs. Johnson’s direct acknowledgement of Planned Parenthood’s institutionalized attitude towards explicit illegal sexual exploitation, knowing that there have been past incidences of Planned Parenthood “looking the other way” when confronted with a rape victim, statutory rape victim, and possible victims of sexual trafficking, , knowing that they continuously try to fly under the radar getting their “sex education” “curriculums” into grade schools for younger and younger children in order to hook young “customers,” knowing that they engage in smear campaigns against innocent pro-life activists, knowing that they will do almost anything to protect their image as the bastion of Feminism, Woman’s Champion , can you honestly say that you would expect them to tell the Truth about all the practices and “unofficial policies” that they employ in order to “up the abortion numbers?” Put this together, along with the fact that Planned Parenthood is, by its nature, funded on corrupted principles. Now ask yourself if you think its reasonable to assume that they may have a tendency to avoid revealing the whole Truth about their organization and its practices.
Why am I asking you this? Why am I making this case? Because Catholic Moral Teaching, and Pastoral Practice asserts that “a person is not necessarily obligated to reveal the meaning of one’s words or gestures every time one communicates to another, especially if some great good must be protected by the withholding of some truth” (1). Furthermore, the First Edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Article 2483, “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth….’ (emphasis added). Article 2488 states: ‘The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional… This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.’ Article 2489 states: ‘No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have a right to know it.’ Article 2469 says ‘The virtue of truth gives another his just due.” ‘ According to moral theologian Monica M. Miller, this article can be “interpreted to mean that truth may be withheld when the person engaged in evil, to whom you are communicating, is thus not entitled to such a “just due.”’ “There is a long-standing moral tradition in the Catholic Church that accepts the use of mental reservation—and also the idea that one is not obligated to reveal the truth to those who commit injustice and moral wrong-doing” (1)
This understanding is what allowed Pope Pius XII to forge birth certificates for Jews during the Holocaust. It is why Catholic Police Officers who go under cover are not living in sin. It is what allows an Army General to be in a State of Grace even as he orders a maneuver that is designed to deceive the enemy. It is why St. Augustine (who had many harsh things to say about lying) praised the biblical Jacob for lying to his father – assuming a false identity as his brother, Esau, and thus fulfilling part of God’s Plan for Salvation. It is also this pastoral understanding and Catholic Teaching that leads me to believe that Lila Rose and Live Action did not commit a grave sin when they made the videos of Planned Parenthood. Notice the emphasis above. Would you consider Planned Parenthood to be among those who institutionally “commit injustice and wrong doing?” I would. Live Action would too.
I have been somewhat surprised by the moral high horses that some of my fellow bloggers have climbed on. It is disheartening to me to read such round condemnations of Live Action. It smacks of judgementalism, and for those who are decrying Live Action’s “deception” as immoral and unacceptable, I would ask, “Is your self-righteous judgement any better?” Christ admonished us not to judge. Let us not forget that in this discussion. You see, one of the problems is that none of us knows what was in the hearts and minds of the Live Action actors, and in this case, that can make the difference between sinful and sinless behavior. Some of the Catholic teaching on lying that we just discussed is founded largely on what is interiorly happening with the one carrying out the deception. You see, paramount in this discussion is that God knows the hearts and intentions of Live Action’s people. We do not, nor should we assume that we do. Scripture holds for us many examples of God’s people carrying out deceptions in order to accomplish God’s Will – it was done most often to save innocent lives, and in battle. Consider these instances in Scripture:
When Saul’s men pursue David to his wife Michal’s house, he secretly flees, and Michal deceives Saul’s men with a mock body in David’s bed (I Sam. 19:12-17). David life is thus spared from unjust aggressors. David also deceives Achish king of Gath by feigning insanity (I Sam. 21:13). The ploy works and Achish’s servants fail in their efforts to aggress against David.
In another classic case, we find that God Himself directs Samuel to deceive Saul’s informants. The Lord calls Samuel to go and anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king in the place of Saul. Samuel openly expresses his fear that Saul will kill him if he discovers what his mission is, and so the Lord directs Samuel to deceive the informants by concealing his true mission: “And the Lord said, Take a heifer with you, and say, I have come to sacrifice to the Lord'” (I Sam. 16:2). Samuel does this and spares his own life.
… the most prominent case is Rahab’s deception. Joshua sends spies to Jericho, and the king of Jericho calls on Rahab, who is harboring the spies, to “Bring out the men who have come to you” (Josh. 2:3). Though at that moment they were in fact in her home, she claims, contrary to fact, that “the men went out; I do not know where the men went.” (Josh. 2:5). When the potential aggressors left, Joshua’s spies made an oath to protect her and her family from the coming destruction “for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent” (Josh. 6:25). She is blessed for her deception. Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 continue to praise Rahab for her righteous work of deception. Hence, once again, deception is justified when one is protecting life against the threat of unjust aggressors.
And one that I feel is most relevant to our case here includes midwives who disobeyed Pharoah’s Direct Order (the Law of the Land) and spared the lives of baby boys at birth: “In Exodus 1:15 we learn that Pharaoh commands the Egyptian midwives to kill any sons born to Hebrew women. The midwives disobey, and when Pharaoh inquires why they failed to follow his command, they consciously distort the facts; they in fact “let the boys live” (Ex. 1:17), but they claim that they weren’t even at the births in time (Ex. 1:19). Immediately following this deception, we read “So God was good to the midwives…” (Ex. 1:20). The fruit of fearing God was deception. They too deceived in order to protect”(2).
One theme that these examples all share is that God knew the hearts of His people, and they knew His will – whether by His direct intervention as with Samuel, or as, with the midwives, by His Blessing. Scripture shows us that throughout history God has used people in various circumstances to accomplish His plans. Sometimes in our fallen world, that accomplishment has called for deception. If the apple had never been eaten it’d be a different story. If God called individuals to His service, and sometimes required them to deceive in order to accomplish His Will, why should He not do the same today? Who are we to say that Lila Rose and Live Action are not carrying out a specific role in the fight to end abortion? Shouldn’t they be given the benefit of the doubt?
One argument that I have read says that Live Action used “entrapment.” This has been proven false – Live Action walks the line, but they are firmly on the right side of it, in none of the videos did the undercover operatives use language that “trapped” the employees of Planned Parenthood into apathy when faced with an illegal activity. They weren’t tricked into divulging information, they freely offered it. Another argument is from some moral theologians who say that any and all falsehoods and deceptions are evil, and mortal sins, regardless of the ends, regardless of what is interiorly taking place in the individual’s soul. Black and White. But the problem with these arguments is that they do not even allow for morally sanctioned, licit employment as an undercover officer, investigative journalist, or military officer – and being a military officer (or enlisted officer) is a vocation which the Catechism says can be of the “highest order,” and although I didn’t cite all of them, there are numerous examples in scripture of God’s Military Commanders deceiving the enemy and saving God’s Chosen People from destruction. (Think of Gideon, the “Might Man of Valor” who was instructed by God to deceive the Midianites, and prove that God can use even deceptive circumstances to accomplish His purposes.). Clearly these examples, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledge that some allowances must be made for some sorts of deception. That is why the Catechism even states that “The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity” (Article 2484). I would consider it analogous to Operation Rescue’s peaceful civil disobedience. We all know that the Church teaches us that the Fourth Commandment extends to Civil Authorities – that we are obligated to obey the rule of law and those who are charged with carrying out and protecting that law. Yet, the Church also makes allowance and exception for laws that are unjust. As a rule are we compelled by the moral law to obey civil law? Yes. Are there circumstances and situations that are exceptions? Yes. Is it wrong to act on these exceptions, with a heart of Love, when there is a greater good to be accomplished? No. The Church, in her Wisdom has long recognized that in a fallen, imperfect world, there must sometimes be allowances to the moral “norm” in order for God’s Mercy and Justice to work among us. This same principle extends to other areas of Catholic Moral thought as well, and maybe in the future we shall discuss those, but for now we are concerning ourselves with the present debate. It is possible for an individual in certain circumstances to act outside the moral “norm” and not be acting sinfully. These actions should not be taken lightly, and I would counsel Lila Rose, who is Catholic, to seek the guidance of a trusted Priest, if she is not already, so that she may receive guidance and counsel as she carries out her specific role in the fight to end abortion, and reveal the Truth about a corrupted organization.
Is it important to discuss these things? I would say yes. We should always seek to follow God’s Laws and His teachings, but in some cases even those who help us to understand the Truth disagree with each other. It is in these cases, sometimes most especially, that we must make sure we approach everything with Love. You see, Love can make all the difference. If Live Action approaches its mission out of Love, Love for the misguided Planned Parenthood employees, Love for the innocent babies being slaughtered every day, and Love for the women who seek Planned Parenthood’s services, then there will be little room for evil in their hearts because Love and Evil, or malice cannot coexist. And the difference between having Love and having malicious intent can be the difference between grave sin and no sin. If we as a Pro-Life people seek to keep Love in our hearts we can approach this issue and this discussion with an open and understanding heart – not one filled with indignity and judgement, self-righteousness and contempt. Love is the prism through which we can more clearly see the Truth.
And the Truth still remains that Planned Parenthood is an organization that uses tax money to carry out a holocaust on the pre-born. In the process they have shown themselves to be institutionally conditioned to looking the other way when faced with illegal sex trafficking, and statuary rape. THIS is where the focus of our just anger should be – not at Live Action Media.
The videos that Live Action released have started a big ugly ball rolling that could irreparably damage Planned Parenthood. This would be a huge victory in the fight to end abortion. If women begin to question or mistrust this organization (as they should) then the pro-choice movement will lose some of its credibility. These chinks in the pro-choice armor weaken the entire cause. Furthermore, the light that has been shed on the illegal actions of Planned Parenthood have greatly strengthened the move to end the funneling of tax dollars to their coffers. This is the greatest surge on this front that we have seen for a long time. Unfortunately, abortion is legal. Sex trafficking, specifically of minors, is not. Aiding and abetting said trafficking is not. Live Action has provided concrete evidence that shows a widespread, systemic propensity towards illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood. This is a tremendous advantage in the fight to end Government Funding for them. It brings us a few steps closer to the goal of making abortion an abomination of the past. It has also caused extra scrutiny to reveal more and more inappropriate and illegal activities on the part of Planned Parenthood – independent of Live Action. I would urge all of you to not lose sight of the ultimate goal – the Freedom to Live for all humans – no matter how tiny they are, or how many cells they have. With all the discussion raging around the “morality” of Live Action’s videos, let us not be distracted from the true, irrefutable evil before us – that of the killing of innocent pre-born children.
(6) Unplanned by Abby Johnson. Kindle Edition.